Race for Water Odyssey lands in Yokohama, Japan

R0004909The Swiss Race 4 Water Odyssey trimaran “MOD70” landed after a long journey starting in Bordeaux in March of this year and halting among other places in New York City and Santiago de Chile before racing to Hawaii and finally to Yokohama in Japan. The team under skipper Steve Ravussin struggled with a major typhoon near Japan and decided to halt on the Japanese island Hachijojima before arriving safely in Yokohama.

The Race for Water Odyssey Foundation IMG_6123whose president Mr. Marco Simeoni (picture to the right) is one of the six crew members on board of the impressive trimaran was established to raise awareness of the major debris that is floating in our oceans. The MOD70 trimaran is a racing boat with a maximum speed of 75 km/h, truly making their journey a real race! The drawback is that there is no proper infrastructure like showers or toilets on the boat – the six-men crew work in 3-hour shifts and share two berths during their more than 2 week journeys on high sea.

IMG_6132President Marco Simeoni and Scientific Advisor Kim van Arkel (image left) made it clear during the press conference why his project was of greatest importance: 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by oceans, and 80% of the marine pollution is caused by plastics. Furthermore, the ocean feeds 50% of the world population, and more than 50% of the earth’s oxygen comes from the sea! About 10% of the yearly produced plastic lands in the ocean; in Japan about 310’000 – 580’000 tons of litter is washing up at its shores every year (numbers provided by the Japanese government)!

During their stay in Japan, the Race for Water Odyssey Foundation was in close contact with the Science & Technology Office Tokyo; together they organized a meeting with local experts to discuss the problems surrounding ocean debris in an event hosted at the Embassy of Switzerland. Furthermore, a “Kids Day” was held where children with their parents visited the boat and learned directly from the crew about the litter in the oceans. During the press conference taking place on July 28 near the harbor, Japanese and Swiss media were informed about the importance of their R4W’s endeavor. After the press conference, the team invited journalists onto their sailing boat for a tour in Yokohama Bay. All the participants greatly enjoyed the ride at speeds up to 17.5 knots (at a wind-speed of 12 knots)!

Before continuing their journey to Shanghai by the end of this month, the team met Japanese industry (e.g, Blest KK – a company transforming plastic into oil) and held a symposium at a university in Tokyo, discussing the use of ICT to fight ocean debris.

The Race for Water Foundation is collaborating in Switzerland with the EPFL spin-off and drone-company senseFly, as well as with EPFL and the University of Applied Science in Fribourg for the analysis of the collected garbage.

Update: The project was prominently featured in the evening news of NHK on July 28, 2015.

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